Since the dawn of gaming we’ve enjoyed new intellectual properties, so much so that we want to see more of the same games we love, albeit with a new twist on the formula. Since the original releases of Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy and Halo a lot of us have enjoyed these great games and want to see more from them. I remember playing Metal Gear Solid for the original Playstation, and being taken aback at how games have taken such a leap forward. The game ran longer than most games previous to it, and offered a lot of new and innovative ways to play. After completing the game, I just had to have more. The cliffhanger ending left me wanting, and I just had to find out more about the universe.
The same runs true for Final Fantasy, and especially with Halo. I remember picking up my Xbox with a minimal choice of games. I was almost ready to put that big black brick away. That was, until I discovered Halo. Rushing to the store to pick it up, I started playing the game and was blown away by the sheer grandiosity of it. One of the signs of a great game is leaving you wanting more, and each of these titles are great games.
Each of the great games I enjoyed have spawned multiple sequels since release. Metal Gear Sold 4 is the most recent iteration of the franchise, and supposedly the final chapter in the saga. The game expanded on the established canon and tied up every loose end dating back to the very beginning of the tale. It introduced and expanded upon several gameplay elements. In addition, it’s cinematic story was on a level unrivaled by other modern games. The Metal Gear Solid has gotten better and better with each iteration, culminating in the masterpiece that was MGS4. Not to spoil anything, but the ending of MGS4 left enough questions to warrant a sequel. How can Kojima Productions continue with the franchise? Is there anything new the game can introduce? These are the questions developers must think about before creating a sequel.
Let’s look at a few game franchises that have come out with sequels recently:
Many of us have been playing Call of Duty games since the series was first introduced on the PC. Activision shares the franchise with two different developers, Infinity Ward and Treyarch, while the fanatics of each developer will argue over which is superior, the Infinty Ward developed games are held as superior by the majority. Whether it’s sales, reviews or gameplay, Infinity Ward knows how to make a game that puts money in activisions pocket and satisfies millions of gamers at the same time. The majority of the series was set in World War 2 until Modern Warfare was released last year setting record sales numbers for the franchise. What does Treyarch do? They go right back to WWII and borrow the same concept from Modern Warfare, which seems to be working. Call of Duty is one franchise full of sequels, that never seems to get old. Hopefully Modern Warfare 2 continues this tradition when it’s released in November ’09.
Every fan of First Person Shooter’s knows the name Halo. Developer Bungie has released 3 Halo games that have innovated the genre in some way. Halo: Combat Evolved saved the Xbox single handedly during its sales slump, the game sold over 3 million copies and brought the Xbox back into relevancy. Soon after the release of the original Halo, Bungie went right to work and developed the highly anticipated Halo 2, which sold over 10 million copies to date.
The game offered people an unrivaled online experience on consoles, allowing game types beyond your generic deathmatches and its groundbreaking matchmaking system arguably put Bungie on the map. The story wasn’t the best we’ve ever seen, but the multiplayer was the main attraction and was the real reason to stay. With the release of Halo 3 in September, 2007; we received updated graphics and an end to the story arguably “Finishing the Fight.”
Halo 3 brought multiplayer to a whole new level. The brand new Forge mode was a basic yet versatile map editor. The game also offered a film saving feature that had you spending hours looking through and picking out your best clips and uploading them to a Bungie-run community website. So what’s next for the franchise? An expansion to Halo 3, Halo: ODST is set to release sometime in 2009. Also in the mill is a rumor that Halo 4 is in development by Gearbox, creators of the Brothers in Arms franchise. Where is the Halo series going? We don’t know exactly, but there is much in store for this series, even though the fight is finished… Although it does leave us wondering, is Halo being stretched further than it can go?
As you can see sequels aren’t necessarily a bad thing, but they need to be done right if they want to succeed. There are few titles that will always succeed, most Nintendo First-Party titles, Call of Duty and Final Fantasy are some that come to mind. Most of us will buy a game on a yearly basis if we’re use to quality games from the developer such as Infinity Ward and the developer knows as long as the game is quality, gamers will buy their games knowing that they have a dedicated fan base. There are bad examples of franchise sequels as well, Brothers in Arms, Need for Speed, NBA Live all have got low review scores and seen failure on the sales charts.
This leads to a few other questions. Should game franchises be released on a yearly basis? Can a developer really put out quality in the short amount of time? These are questions that the developer needs to address in the decision they make about sequels. Activision seems to be doing alright switching between Treyarch and Infinity Ward every year, but can other developers afford to do the same, or is the extra year or two worth the wait. We can only see as time goes on.